Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Old-School (and Cheap-Skate) Oil Finish Wax Waterproofing


A couple of weeks ago Darla found a cotton jacket at Target on sale for $19. She got it for me. I really like it. It only needed a little "customization." I sewed a couple of extra buttons on the sleeves so I had the option to make the cuffs a little tighter around my wrists and I replaced the big white drawstrings around the waist and hood with black leather string and bronze string stops.
Then I wore it the next day. It rained and I got completely soaked! Like, the water was immediately sucked into the jacket to my skin! Not cool.
Now, I'm a big fan of Filson stuff (even though I can't afford it!), and had a small can of Filson Oil Finish Wax that came with the backpack that I got as a gift, so I applied the whole can to my new jacket hoping to make it look and perform more like a Filson Tin Cloth jacket. It sucked it up as it had the rain, and the jacket wasn't even half finished. Uh-oh. After calling every place in town that sells Filson stuff, I found one more can. The jacket sucked it up too. I needed one more. Filson didn't even have any. I found a can on eBay and waited almost two weeks to get it. Finally the jacket was adequately covered. I put it in a trash bag then into the dryer and it came out great! I mean, I absolutely love it. It's a little darker and less yellow-orange colored (a good thing), and it feels more meaty. Costs: Target jacket - $19. Two cans Filson Oil Finish Wax (in addition to the one I already had) - $24 (that's right--the wax cost more than the jacket!).
Sorry, the only shot I have is this of the family a couple of days before Christmas.
I still got a deal: a (now) virtually waterproof jacket that looks great and will last much longer than it would've untreated for $43. Not bad! But the whole time I was treating that jacket, I'm thinking, "There's got to be a cheaper way to do this." An internet search for "Filson Oil Finish Wax recipe" gave some good leads. I combined some of them and ended up making my own version.

The Sparks' Oil Finish Wax:


1 pound block of paraffin wax (got mine at Food City, $4) I think I'll use 2 pounds next time.
3 cups linseed oil (Lowes, $3)
2 tablespoons turpentine (Lowes $0.50)
8 oz. Howard Feed-N-Wax beeswax & orange oil wood polish (half the bottle, bought at Tractor Supply, $7)
A new paint can, a stir stick, and a cheap 2-inch paint brush (Lowes, about $5).

All together this makes almost 2 quarts of oil wax for a grand total of $15 (not counting can, stick, and brush). That means I get MUCH more waterproofing treatment for half the cost (if you include the cost of the can of Filson stuff I already had). According to my calculations, the Filson treatment costs $3.45 per oz. The Sparks homemade treatment costs $.45 per ounce ($.39 if I use an additional brick of wax as I plan to do next time). That means the Filson Oil-Wax costs almost 9 times more expensive per ounce!


So I needed to perform a test. I have an old upland hunting jacket that I wear rabbit and quail hunting. It is light brown and orange (the light brown parts are cotton), and doesn't perform well in briars or rain. I also have a tan heavy canvas bag with a shoulder strap that used to be my work/computer bag that I bought online for about $20 from China several years ago. I now use it to carry hunting stuff (shells, extra clothing, water, dog collars, etc). Perfect for a test.

Here's how it went:
I made a double boiler (a big pot about 1/3 filled with water and the new paint can--remember this stuff is flammable. Handle with care!) and I slowly melted the ingredients in the can and stirred the liquid. While the wax solution was still hot, I brushed it on pretty heavily. Then, as with the Filson wax, I put them in a trash bag and into the dryer for an hour.

The result? The bag has a much more coarse and loose weave, which sucked up the wax and really didn't change the appearance that much. It is a bit stiffer and will stand up by itself now. I haven't tested it in the rain. It also smells a bit stronger than the jacket. I'm a little concerned that if I go somewhere and pack clothes they may smell like it. I'll try to update when I use the bag later. I'm very happy with the jacket. I can't wait to try in out in the briars and the rain. It looks great. It smells a bit strong of linseed oil and maybe a hint of turpentine. But it's not too offensive, and the smell is fading with each day.

Update:
I went rabbit hunting last week in the rain, which gave me a great opportunity to test my jacket. Here's my review:
1. It looks great. The oil-wax makes it look more expensive and rugged in my opinion. The jacket wrinkles in the elbow where it bends. I'm thinking it's going to gain patina and look better with use. The material is a little darker, but not that much. I like it.
The jacket...before.
2. It really feels more hardy and tough. I foresee this treatment making this old jacket last a long time.
3. It is much more briar-resistant and hitchhiker (cocklebur, beggartick, sticktight, burdock, and other stick-to-your-clothing seeds) resistant than the jacket was previously. Notice, I didn't say "briar- and hitchhiker-PROOF." But it is much more so than before.
4. It is not as breathable as before. But it doesn't let the wind cut through either. I'm actually good with this. I'm more prone to get cold (especially during rabbit season) than get hot. And it's still breathable--it seems it is as much as my Gore-Tex stuff.
The bag and jacket...after.

5. It is almost water proof. I hunted for several hours in various degrees of drizzle and rain. I did not get wet underneath. At first the rain and water from trees & brush beaded up and rolled off. As the day went on I noticed it looked like it soaked in the fabric a little. I thought that was bad, but it wasn't. I think the cotton fibers are so filled with oil-wax they can't hold any liquid. It seems to work much like wool, with even some wicking ability. After the hunt, my pants and socks were wet, but only the collar of my shirt was wet. That means I will probably have to get a different hat to wear hunting in the rain. The old baseball-style hunting cap just doesn't have enough coverage. I think I understand the Filson tin-cloth hat thing now a little better! Hmmm...maybe I can make one of those too!
Would I do anything differently? As I previously mentioned, I think next time I will double the amount of wax I used. I think that may make the fabric a little stiffer (e.g. last longer) and even more water-resistant.


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